10 November 2011

Notes from the front

It found that in 1979, households in the bottom quintilereceived more than 50 percent of all transfer payments. In 2007,similar households received about 35 percent of transfers. “Theshift reflects the growth in spending for programs focused on theelderly population (such as Social Security and Medicare), in whichbenefits are not limited to low-income households,” the studyexplains. “As a result, government transfers reduced the dispersionof household income by less in 2007 than in 1979.”

1) In case anyone is wondering why I'm not happy with social security and medicare and want to see them seriously reformed and curtailed to their stated purpose of social safety net, this is one reason. There is no reason a country, even a very wealthy country like the United States, should undertake to redistribute significant wealth to people who are already wealthy. Keep in mind also that this study was measuring household income quartiles, not net worth quartiles, where the retiree population would make it look even worse. Indeed, net worth gaps between the elderly and the younger working generation, which are always substantial, have grown even faster than income gaps.

2) After that debacle last night, I seriously hope Rick Perry goes away for good. Seriously "oops?". Also, I could name off at least 8 or 10 cabinet positions or significant federal agencies that I'd want to see rolled down to nothing or their actually useful programmes rolled into other budget posts.
a) the Vice Presidency and associated bureaucracy. Obsolete requirements that we select strange people to be on a Presidential ticket with very minimal vetting in the event they end up ascending to the post of President is not a good idea to begin with. That there's a huge infrastructure around it is even less so.
b) Homeland Security.
c) DEA. Enough said on these two.
d) Department of Energy (most of the funding and programmes in it are actually related to the DoD or to foreign treaty compliance with the IAEA, the rest is largely useless subsidies to oil, coal and ethanol. Also I'd prefer to see CAFE standards go away and be replaced by a significant gasoline and carbon tax).
e) I'd like to see the Department of Agriculture and FDA combined and most of the USDA's functions eliminated.
f) Department of Education can be seriously curtailed or devolved to the states. The one qualifier I have there is that the states (or the fed) should make a serious effort to provide for school choice of the sort where money follows students. Even those "socialist" Europeans have a more capitalistic venture than we do when it comes to education, hence we're doing something wrong in the parlance of conservatives. SWEDEN "for pete's sake" has school choice systems and a superior educational model for what amounts to K-12. To say nothing of places like Finland which totally kick our ass at it. No child left behind would end also.
g) Commerce can go, its survey functions can be rolled into Treasury since most of them are economic data anyway (the census also could go in there). Labor is in a similar boat.
h) FCC
i) Cut the number of distinct financial regulatory boards to two or three, for starters.
j) Significant reforms to Medicare/aid and Social Security would presumably have some impact on HHS's budget. Eliminating Medicare Part D would be among these.
k) After removing the mortgage deduction and possibly introducing a negative income tax we could do away with HUD.
l) Cuts to defence would be in the 40-50% range if it were up to me. When including the two to four active wars that we don't need to be in, more like 60%
m) NASA would be privatized

And so on. It would not be hard for me to stand up and announce which ones were going away. I'd also be able to explain why rather than just have applause lines.

3) I haven't written about Cain's heinous off the field exploits. There are two reasons. First, I think it's a waste of time. The guy doesn't take running for President seriously to begin with as evidenced by his idiotic political positions on just about everything. He ought to be buried already without some sort of salacious sex scandal and isn't yet mostly because total ignorance is celebrated in the politics of the right today. It's also celebrated in the politics of the left, but they don't have a primary to demonstrate it where there are other options who might look smarter or dumber by comparison to Obama the way there are with Cain. Everybody but Perry and Bachmann on the platform looks smarter than he does (even Gingrich, which is saying something)...and the fact that all three are/were at points popular in polls is telling. Second, the amount of information we have on what he is accused of doing, much less what he actually did, is too poor for me to make any assessments. But from his bungled reactions to all this media attention, I think I can create a strong assumption that he's at least a scumbag like DSK. Whether that makes him guilty of a crime or just yet another case of men in powerful and prominent positions making all other men look like assholes to women generally, I don't know. If the stories and accusations leveled at him are true however, at the very least this is not a man who should be running for President, or should become President in the 21st century. But we knew that already before this story broke because of his statements on.. well just about everything else. Since usually I find American style sex scandals to be enormously tedious (except when they are evidence of hypocrisy, then they are amusing for about 20 seconds), I'm going to mostly ignore it until he finally goes away from one source or another.
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